Did Rahul just call Narendra Modi 'Aurangzeb'?

In his first exclusive interview with a daily newspaper Rahul Gandhi tries to give us a history lesson with Ashoka and Akbar on one side and Aurangzeb on the other. So if Congress walks in the footsteps of Ashoka and Akbar, as he claims, who walks in the footsteps of Aurangzeb?

FP Politics January 15, 2014 07:40:57 IST
Did Rahul just call Narendra Modi 'Aurangzeb'?

Sonia Gandhi famously called Narendra Modi a “maut ka saudagar” and has never lived down that remark. She made the comment in 2007 but it’s still brandished by her opponents as Exhibit A in rhetorical games of political tit-for-tat.

Now Rahul Gandhi has, perhaps unwittingly, come close to comparing Modi to Aurangzeb.

In an interview with Kalpesh Yagnik, national editor of the Dainik Bhaskar group, being touted as his first ever exclusive to a daily newspaper, Rahul mostly stuck to his usual bland pronouncements about democracy, empowerment and common people.

Did Rahul just call Narendra Modi Aurangzeb

Political masterstroke or inadvertent blunder?

Except for this one little nugget of lessons from history.

India has witnessed Samrat Ashok, Akbar and Aurangzeb. Ashok is famous for integrating people; Akbar too worked in this direction and this is why people take their name with great respect. However, Aurangzeb is known for other reasons. On the same lines, Congress is working toward national integration and inclusive growth for everyone.

Rahul’s clear that in his mind the Congress follows in the footsteps of the “inclusive” Ashok and Akbar. He does not quite spell out who walks in the footsteps of Aurangzeb. But no prizes for guessing who might be the polarizing leader, the Voldemort who must not be named, he has in mind. (And no, it’s not Arvind Kejriwal.)

Now that’s quite a cunning stroke by the man Modi loves to call “shahzada” if indeed Rahul intended to draw blood there and did not just inadvertently blunder into it. Modi keeps using (and reinterpreting) history to make political points. Rahul has tried to pay him back in his own historical coin.

Modi has over and over again, with great calculation, made mocking references to the Delhi “durbar” and the “shahzada” as if the Gandhis are a continuation of some kind of Delhi sultanate. His use of “shahzada” as opposed to “yuvraj” for the Congress crown-prince is deliberate writes Firstpost’s Sanjay Singh:

Though both Yuvraj and Shahzada have the same meaning, namely crown Prince, the connotation of the two terms, in modern parlance, vary in many parts of the Hindi heartland in North India. Yurvraj is used to describe a legitimate crown prince while Shahzada is often used with a sarcastic tinge, to imply a brat.

The Shahzada strikes back in the interview. Sort of. He does not show the uncharacteristic theatrical aggression demonstrated by his own Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he said “it would be disastrous for the country to have (Modi) as the prime minister” because he had “presided over a mass massacre of innocent citizens on the streets of Ahmedabad.”

Rahul seems to reserve his agression for tearing up Congress/UPA bills and proposals.

In this interview he merely says that a Modi government would be “one-man centric” which would not be “good in the national interest”. It’s a rather odd argument coming from the leader of a party that has been unabashedly one-family centric and is now paying the price for that. Rahul might have had dreams of turning the Congress into a party that was more about merit than dynasty. But for now his party’s wagon is firmly hitched to his star. Unfortunately for the party, Rahul is trapped in the very Indian projection of fake humility.

While the party desperately looks to him for leadership, Rahul still pretends he’s just a loyal footsoldier:

In our organisation, decisions are always made by senior politicians. In the past also, such kind of decisions have been made by seniors.

While claiming that “there is no such word as ‘reluctance’ in my life” he tries to project humility but manages to sound long-windedly reluctant instead:

In the national interest, it is necessary that Congress forms the government at the Centre; and in this direction whatever responsibilities the organisation has given me, I will discharge them with utmost sincerity and honesty.

This humility would work if Rahul was demonstrating real results on the ground. What makes it especially difficult for the Congress is he also seems to willfully blind to the drubbing it has received in poll after poll lately trying to exude a sunny optimism when nothing in the recent electoral record warrants it:

Congress is generally underestimated before each election including 2004 and 2009 elections. However, the results were completely different. I expect the 2014 elections to be more exciting and I believe we will emerge victorious again.

Rahul thinks the “BJP’s demand of Congress-free ‘Bharat’ is a vague idea”. Actually it’s a very concrete and concise and easier to grasp than “national integration and inclusive growth for everyone”. And just because it’s sitting in government in Delhi propping up the Aam Aadmi Party, does not mean his party did not come perilously close to a Congress-free Delhi.

Read the full Dainik Bhaskar interview here.

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